30 C
Mossel Bay
29th February 2024
Nature & Nurture

Caracal in our midst

One of Great Brak River’s most elusive and misunderstood resident animals is the Caracal.
Caracal can be found throughout Africa not just here in Great Brak River and can also found in the Middle East and south western Asia. Caracal comes from the Turkish name ‘Karakulak’, meaning ‘black ear’. In South Africa, Caracal can also called the Rooikat or Lynx. Although the Caracal may indeed be a reddish coloured cat they are actually only distantly related to other “true” lynxes such as the Eurasian lynx and the bobcat in the United States. It is in fact more closely related to the Serval and the African Golden cat and predates the lynx in evolution by nearly a million years.

In historical times the ancient Egyptians portrayed caracals in wall paintings, sculptured them into bronze figures as guardians of tombs; and embalmed their bodies. The mythical Iranian King Tahmūrat trained caracal to hunt birds as well as hares, foxes and small antelope.
With its regal past, it is unfortunate that the status of the Caracal has now been demoted by some to that of problem animal or luxury bush meat.

These highly evolved opportunistic predators are not very limited when it comes to diet. Prey species commonly include rodents, hares, hyraxes (dassies), small monkeys, and small antelope. They may also prey on birds ranging from doves and game birds, like guinea fowl and francolin, as well as lizards, snakes, and invertebrates such as insects and scorpions. They are even known to prey on other small carnivores. Domestic cats and small dogs that wander at night can easily find themselves on the menu.
The actual number of Caracal in the wild worldwide is unknown. The Asian population is listed as endangered by some agencies whilst the African population is not protected in most of it’s range. Within southern Africa, they are particularly widespread and are considered so numerous within some areas of the Western Cape that they are referred to as pests because some individuals will prey on livestock in farming areas.

Whilst a Rooikat may be able to kill sheep, cause chaos in a chicken house and terrorise your pets there are a few simple things one can do to live in harmony with these beautiful animals.
*Lock your livestock and poultry away for the night
*Keep small domestic pets like cats indoors after dark
*Ensure adequate enclosures for livestock and poultry
*Llamas, donkeys and Anatolian shepherds can be used as flock protection
*Know more about caracal so you can have a better understanding on when they most active.
*Understand competition for habitat and how eradication of prey animals impacts the food chain higher up
*Shooting an individual animal won’t make the problem go away as another will just take its place
We are truely blessed to live alongside these incredible animals here in Great Brak River, they are well worth our conservation efforts.

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